From The Rural to The International
By DAVID CAVE
There are few images that soothe with such straightforwardness as the landscape paintings of US-based artist Courtney Morgan. Despite the relatively mundane subject matter of idyllic Caribbean landscapes, which are the focus of most of Morgan’s paintings, there is a subtlety and effectiveness which makes Morgan’s paintings stand out from the stereotypical. To composition and tone, he also brings a painterly texture which succeeds in adding a notable degree of depth and tactile realism to the paintings.
In order to fully appreciate Morgan’s work, one must go beneath the surface simplicity of the paintings to find the strong dynamism that so makes his art unique and noteworthy. Morgan’s work is realistic, but not overly rigid and photographic. The projection of his vision on the canvas engages the viewer by means of the strong and visibly repetitive strokes that add layer upon layer of paint to such an extent that figures and forms literally bulge out towards you. Morgan does not just simply paint; in some cases he is almost sculpting with the paint.
Additionally, Morgan’s subject matter has also branched into the genre of abstract painting, where works such as Jars (2011) and Music and Dance (2009) illustrate his mastery at manipulating the more varied and fluid forms that shift from the representational to the subjective. The effectiveness of this artist’s technique and diversity has been recognised, both in his homeland of Jamaica, and in his adopted home of the United States, to such an extent that his work has been displayed in several private showings of the Jamaican High Commission in New York City, Atlanta and Chicago. Additionally, Morgan has become an artistic ambassador of sorts for Jamaica. His paintings have made it into the private collections of individuals like Prince Akihito of Japan and world renowned musical performer Roberta Flack. His art also forms part of the permanent collection of financial institutions such as the Bank of Jamaica and RBTT’s Jamaican Head Branch.
For the 52 year-old Morgan, this artistic journey is nothing short of amazing and incredible. Growing up in rural Jamaica, in the Montego Bay area, this artist was not formally trained, but diligently followed the tutelage of Titus Wright, a practising artist in the area. From his late teens into his early twenties, Morgan aligned himself with a group of Jamaican artists who called themselves “The Trafalgar Artists’ Co-operative”, named after Trafalgar Road where they had first met. It is through this strong artistic bond that his art blossomed and continued to bring even more rewards- even after his move to the United States, where he still enjoys a strong following from many Caribbean immigrants.
Morgan’s art remains deeply linked to his Caribbean roots, and his long-term intention is to return to Jamaica. He hopes to have more showings in the Caribbean, and was happy to record his deep indebtedness to Trinidad and Tobago because of David Moore, an fellow painter from the twin-island republic who has been one of his greatest influences.
Indeed, Morgan’s career as a successful artist who did not follow the traditional training route, is fascinating by any standard. However, it is even more intriguing when witnessed through Trinidadian eyes. The likelihood of an individual succeeding in Trinidad and Tobago through Moore’s means appears even more remote due to the lack of cohesiveness and relatively small size of its art market. In a recent conversation with him, Moore expressed the view that “Art is only here to be shared”—a position of such generosity that it should itself be passed around.